Auckland to New Plymouth via Forgotten Highway

taranaki

Discover iconic attractions and hidden gems on the road to New Plymouth

6 Days 450 km

Highlights

  • Waitomo Caves
  • The Forgotten World Highway
  • Taranaki region

View the map below

View map below

Discover rivers, caves and unique towns in this six-day itinerary that starts from Auckland and winds through the central North Island to New Plymouth.

See the mighty Waikato River and Waitomo Caves with its glow worms and black water rafting.

Explore New Zealand’s back country on The Forgotten World Highway, and admire coastal views on the Surf Highway as you head into New Plymouth, gateway to Egmont National Park.

Day 1: Hamilton highlights

hamilton-waikato

Delicious stops and outdoor fun in the Waikato

Highlights

  • Zealong Tea Estate
  • Waikato River Cruise
  • Hamilton Gardens

Top 10 things to do in the Waikato

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It’s an easy drive from Auckland to Hamilton with fun stops along the way. Enormous ice creams are the specialty at Pokeno Ice Creams(opens in new window) – could you handle a 13-scooper?

For award-winning Dutch-style cheeses look for Mercer Cheese on Roose Road in Mercer.

Indulge your need for speed and book a supercar experience at Hampton Downs(opens in new window) race track just off the highway.

At Zealong Tea Estate(opens in new window) you can enjoy a relaxed tea tasting and tour.

The Waikato River runs through Hamilton’s heart and you can walk its banks or take a cruise on the Waikato River Explorer(opens in new window). Learn more about the region’s history at Waikato Museum(opens in new window) and explore the beautiful Hamilton Gardens(opens in new window) with its 58 hectares of themed gardens.

Hamilton Zoo(opens in new window) has the largest free-flight aviary in New Zealand as well as exotic and native animals. Book Hamilton City Holiday Park(opens in new window) for a central spot for the night.

Day 2: Go underground in Waitomo

hamilton-waikato

Waikato

Experience the legendary Waitomo Caves

Highlights

  • Native kiwi
  • Waitomo Caves
  • Black water rafting

Explore more of Waitomo

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Just 45 minutes south of Hamilton and right in the middle of dairy farming country is Ōtorohonga, also known as “Kiwiana town”. Visit the Ōtorohonga Kiwi House(opens in new window) to see New Zealand’s native bird up close and explore wetland areas and walk-through aviaries.

Stop just out of town to get a photo with the giant pukeko sculpture. The famous Waitomo Caves(opens in new window) are just a short drive from here and there’s something for everyone in this underground wonderland. You can tour the caves and take a boat ride to see glow worms(opens in new window), go black water rafting(opens in new window) or even try cave abseiling(opens in new window). Waitomo Caves Museum(opens in new window) is the place to find out more about the area’s history and how the caves formed.

Stay the night at the nearby Waitomo Top 10 Holiday Park(opens in new window), in the heart of Waitomo Caves Village.

Day 3: Roadtrip along the Forgotten World Highway

manawatu

Manawatu

See the unique towns that time forgot

Highlights

  • Adventure activities
  • The Forgotten World Highway
  • The Republic of Whangamōmona

Top experiences in Whanganui

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Head south from Waitomo through rolling farmland and native forest to the town of Taumarunui where Forgotten World Adventures(opens in new window) will take you through an untouched side of New Zealand by rail cart, jet boat or even helicopter. You can book a part, full or multi-day adventure.

From here, take State Highway 43, also known as ‘The Forgotten World Highway(opens in new window), which links Taumarunui with the Taranaki region. Stop at Lauren’s Lavender Farm(opens in new window) for a coffee and to see the gardens in bloom from December to March.

Halfway along the highway is Whangamōmona(opens in new window) – a unique town that declared itself a republic in 1989 and issues its own passports from the iconic Whangamōmona Hotel(opens in new window). Book ahead to secure a spot at the Whangamōmona Campground(opens in new window) near the centre of town.

Day 4: Chill out in Ōpunake

taranaki

Taranaki

Surf town vibes in Ōpunake

Highlights

  • Surf Highway 45
  • Art galleries
  • Nature walks

Top experiences in Taranaki

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As you head out to the Taranaki coast stop at the Shakespeare-inspired town of Stratford(opens in new window) with its Romeo and Juliet glockenspiel, which ‘performs’ four times a day.

Then it’s on to the surf town of Ōpunake(opens in new window) on the Surf Highway(opens in new window). This little settlement is the perfect place to spend time relaxing – and when the weather is clear you can stand on the beach at low tide and see the top of majestic Mount Taranaki. Stay at the Opunake Beach Kiwi Holiday Park(opens in new window), which is right on the beautiful beachfront.

If the weather isn’t cooperating then take in a movie at the historic Everybody’s Theatre(opens in new window), built more than a century ago.

Stretch your legs on the Ōpunake Loop Trail – a seven kilometre walk with views of the lake and headlands. Finish the day with fish and chips on the beach as you watch the sun set over the west coast waves.

Days 5 - 6: Art and nature in New Plymouth

taranaki

Art and gardens in Taranaki

Highlights

  • Len Lye Centre
  • Coastal Walkway
  • Egmont National Park

Learn about Egmont National Park

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Continue up the Surf Highway to New Plymouth(opens in new window) and keep your eyes peeled for Mt Taranaki rising in the distance. New Plymouth is a major city in the Taranaki(opens in new window) region with several central holiday parks offering campervan accommodation.

Take the coastal walkway(opens in new window) for great views and to see the famous ‘Wind Wand’ by internationally-renowned New Zealand artist Len Lye. More of his work and other visiting exhibitions are at the Govett Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre(opens in new window) with its distinctive rolling stainless steel façade.

Nearby Puke Ariki(opens in new window) has a museum and gallery, while motor fans will love the Hillsborough Holden Museum(opens in new window). Taranaki is known for its gardens(opens in new window) don’t miss Pukeiti(opens in new window), with one of the world’s biggest and most diverse collections of rhododendron and other exotic plants. Egmont National Park(opens in new window) is just 20 minutes from the city and is the gateway to spectacular Mt Taranaki , with walking tracks ranging from 15-minute strolls to three-day hikes.

 View the route below

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